Why No Noses On Statues?

nosefilmcansThere’s a common mis-theory that because so many noses are missing from ancient statues and carvings, that here must have been some kind of conspiracy to remove them.

Now that does apply to certain other semi-prominent appendages on male Roman statues (but ask the various popes about that one).

Instead it’s really just the fact that noses stick out. So they have a greater tendency to get knocked and broken. They also take the brunt of the weather if the statue is outside – not only are noses more prominent, they are also higher up, both of which tends to make them likely to be even more exposed to weather.

So just like in normal life, noses just simply get broken.

Of course we can repair or reconstruct them, but such reconstruction surgery is controversial because in a sense it’s taking away some of the history that makes that piece of work what it is today.

Noses are unusual parts of the body that greatly define how we look, and tricky to get right when drawing or painting them. If a face looks ‘wrong’, look more closely at the nose to see if you’ve got the angle and shape just right.

This translates into real life too of course, where snap judgements are made every day on noses – they are right there staring us in the face every time we talk to someone. Jewish, roman or african – they can also tell us a lot about race and genetics.

Which is what a new small exhibition in Christchurch, New Zealand is all about. Noses and what they tell us about the faces behind them. This broadens into what happens when noses are damaged and how they can be repaired surgically, as well as makes us think deeper about the cosmetic surgery industry and if it is right or wrong to actually change our noses (and indeed our faces) for purely cosmetic reasons – to reach some untouchable ideal shape. It’s a dilemma faced by a significant percentage of the population. There is more to it than you might think though – and the recovery times from this kind of surgery range in the months not days! So only take this on if you’re feeling brave, and maybe check out the exhibition first for a better idea of what you’re in for.


Incidentally, did you know a collection of noses has a name? It’s a nasothek, and a number of museums have one. Bizarre fact of the week that you can now share with friends. They wo’t think you dull – just a little odd, and I think we all need a bit more odd.